Venice

Calendar

September 7-15, 2015

Curated Articles

Kyra: As I was looking up the history of Venetian masks, I came across this article on the, supposedly, haunted island of Poveglia.

Ben: I knew a gondola ride might not fit our budget, but didn’t know they were over $100/hr!  This New York Times article explains more.

How we got there

Kyra: In Český Krumlov, I carefully constructed a series of buses, trains, and rideshares that would bring us to Dubrovnik, Croatia next. Ben looked at my precariously structured timetable, was a reasonable human being, and once again the next month of our lives shifted. The peripatetic, flexible nature of our travel is incredibly frustrating and entirely liberating, though often not at once. In Israel, I learned that it costs $1 to put in a land mine and $100 to take it out. To me, trip planning seems to be the inverse sentiment. You might spend an hour scouring the internet for a train timetable in a remote city, then in a fraction of the time it took to put together that itinerary, ask yourself, “what if we didn’t spend ten hours in a car traveling through the middle of the night with a man who has good ratings but whom we’ve never met. What if we went to Venice instead?”

Kyra: Luckily, Ben’s college roommate, Nicholas (Salty), lives in Innsbruck, Austria with his girlfriend (Babsi), and they were willing to host us last minute on our way to Venice. We arrived to their apartment at nearly midnight and were met with homemade chicken schnitzel and a neatly made bed.

Ben: To get from the Czech Republic to Venice, we went via train from the Austrian town of Linz, through Innsbruck, and to Venice.  One thing I was worried about was booking all the train tickets for these journeys at the station.  My fear completely evaporated when we were greeted by Sasha at the desk.  He handled all of our questions with succinct answers, gave us suggestions for our route, and was endlessly happy while doing it.  If there was anyone that perfectly fit their job, he was it.

What being good at and happy with your job looks like
What being good at and happy with your job looks like

Where we stayed

Ben: As anyone who has planned a long trip knows, finding accommodation (especially on the go) can be a bit of a toss up.  Sure, you can do a lot of research online, look at Google Street View, TripAdvisor, and the reviews of different places, but you never really know until you get there.  Our place in Venice looked quite a bit different in my head (and online) before we arrived, but then again so did Venice itself.

Ben: Although touristy, Venice was quite gorgeous
Ben: Although touristy, Venice was quite gorgeous

Ben: Kyra and I ended up staying about an hour bus ride from Venice (this fact didn’t fully sink in until we were on said bus one fine morning) in a smaller town called Jesolo.

Kyra: If you are familiar with Twin Cities Suburbs, imagine Maple Grove, then add a beach, very loud Italians, and subtract wifi – that is where we stayed.

Ben: There a lot of older people, cars, and dogs (mostly being walked by the older people), but not much in the way of night-life, Wifi, or coffee shops.  Of course, there were pizza and gelato places aplenty.  Just 2km down the road (I’m getting better at the metric system everyday) was a nice beach town, Lido di Jesolo, where we spent a number of days due to the activities available in Jesolo Centro (few).

Kyra: Our host, Paola, helped us get free bikes to ride to the beach and back. The beach was really the only place we got wifi, besides illegally outside of a PC store in town, so we would load up articles into our new favorite app, “Pocket,” and spend the day reading.
Kyra: Our host, Paola, helped us get free bikes to ride to the beach and back. The beach was really the only place we got wifi, besides illegally outside of a PC store in town, so we would load up articles into our new favorite app, “Pocket,” and spend the day reading.

Ben: Our Airbnb host stayed with us a few nights and entertained us with her view on Italy, watching the Italian version of Deal or No Deal (complete with a country-themed set as well as a “set dog” that seemed to be there only as eye candy), and her loud chats on the phone.  We used most of the week to catch up on reading, practicing cooking, and taking photographs. Overall it ended up being a refreshing stay with some time at the beach, biking, hiking, and day trips.

Kyra: You can kind of see that the houses are red, yellow, or cream colored in this photo taken off our deck at sunset. For miles in any directions houses in every city seemed to follow that color scheme. There was a cute community garden just to the right, where tomatoes and peppers grew.
Kyra: You can kind of see that the houses are red, yellow, or cream colored in this photo taken off our deck at sunset. For miles in any direction, houses in every city seemed to follow that color scheme. There was a cute community garden just to the right, where tomatoes and peppers grew.

Food

Kyra: Ben found this creperie that is a one-man-show run out of his kitchen. Here’s the master making our pumpkin, walnut crepe.
Kyra: Ben found this creperie that is a one-man-show run out of his kitchen. Here’s the master making our pumpkin, walnut crepe.
Kyra: For the most part, COOP, the local supermarket , was our friend, and we learned how to shop properly in Italy. Here is Ben using the shopping basket.
Kyra: I got sick of pizza. It’s a blasphemous thing for me to say. I’m in the middle of an identity crisis, but I just wanted some damn Asian food. Luckily we had a full kitchen and time to cook! For the most part, COOP, the local supermarket, was our friend, and we learned how to shop properly in Italy. Here is Ben using the shopping basket.
Kyra: And Ben preparing a Zucchini for check out. Little known fact about Ben, he did not know the difference between a Zucchini and a Cucumber before this trip
Kyra: And Ben preparing a Zucchini for check out. Little known fact about Ben, he did not know the difference between a Zucchini and a Cucumber before this trip

Ben: Combine great food, generous staff, and a Western style interior (NOT Pizza Ranch™) to get Alla Tavernetta. You know when you’re in a totally new place and someone is unexpectedly nice to you, makes you inexpensive delicious food, and then says “Ciao!” to you like 7 times?  Well, maybe that doesn’t happen everywhere, but it’s what happened there, and I couldn’t have been happier.  I made Kyra go back three times.

Ben: The best pizza box art I’ve ever seen
Ben: The best pizza box art I’ve ever seen
Kyra: Sasha, the owner, her husband, son, and our pizza.
Kyra: Sonia (the owner), her husband, son, and our pizza.
Kyra: One night Ben, not normally an avid chef, was stricken with the desire to make a traditional Italian dish, Risotto. It was delicious.
Kyra: One night Ben, not normally an avid chef, was stricken with the desire to make a traditional Italian dish, Risotto. It was delicious.

Ben: This wasn’t in Venice, it was in a small town called Gorizia, but I’m adding it because it was still in Italy.  It came highly recommended on TripAdvisor and wow did it meet expectations.  We ordered gnocchi with fig, crepes filled with zucchini, buttered spinach, and a traditional potato and onion Slovenian dish (it was in Italy, but about 10 blocks from the Slovenian border).

Kyra: For those of you lucky enough to be a part of Mary Wilken’s life, this is the restaurant she would open. The menu was formatted as a storybook with each dish described whimsically. The bathroom had a bowl with department store perfume samples and small, porcelain figurines.
Kyra: For those of you lucky enough to be a part of Mary Wilken’s life, this is the restaurant she would open. The menu was formatted as a storybook with each dish described whimsically. The bathroom had a bowl with department store perfume samples and small, porcelain figurines.
Kyra: Each place setting was unique, with incredibly attention to detail. A number of locals would stand near the counter sipping on wine and chatting with the employees. One older man walked in with his dog to spend a few minutes laughing with the hostess - this seems to be a widely accepted practice in Italy.
Kyra: Each place setting was unique, with incredible attention to detail. A number of locals would stand near the counter sipping on wine and chatting with the employees. One older man walked in with his dog to spend a few minutes laughing with the hostess – this seems to be a widely accepted practice in Italy.

Map/Our Path

jesolo

Local View and Lessons Learned

Kyra: When we arrived in the city of Venice, which is in fact an island (lesson within a lesson), we made our way to a restaurant. Once the bill came, we noticed 4 Euros had been added to the total with a note next to the number “Coperto.” Apparently a great number of restaurants, not only in Venice proper, charge guests a cover charge.

Ben: A lesson that’s slowly coming into focus for me is that fear is one of our strongest emotions.  Before this trip I had many fears (probably from crappy movies about travelers being robbed or killed, and/or stories of acquaintances or friends being pick pocketed and mugged) but most of them are slowly vanishing.  Whether or not this is a good thing is yet to be seen, but with a few of these nerves drying up, I’m finding that almost everyone we meet on our way is very kind.  At hotels, restaurants, beaches, and train stations, people are willing to work with you and help even if they don’t speak a word of your language.  Kyra and I realized that speaking English is a luxury, but even still the people we’ve met and conversed with were never angry or rude, they took the time to help us through whatever situation we were in.  Although Minnesota isn’t exactly a travel hub, it makes me think about how to change my own behavior towards “strangers” on our return.

Ben: And now for a second, less in depth paragraph: Our host was quite concerned with political corruption and illegal immigration within Italy.  It seemed from what she said that a number of those high in political seats within Italy were involved in some shady enterprises.  She also mentioned that even before the Syrian conflict, Italy struggled with a high number of people crossing their borders without proper documentation and “stealing” their jobs – sounds like a US news story.  I guess the point of this is that every country is dealing with similar problems, but we all seem to build ours up like they’re the worst.  It helps to take a step back.

Kyra: Ben’s point reminds me of similar thought I had when we got to Innsbruck, on our way to Venice. Salty and Babsi not only stayed up late on a work night to welcome us, they also cooked us dinner and chatted with us after a day of travel, which was profoundly kind and infinitely more appreciated.

Kyra: If you ever want to visit Venice, here is how to do it: stay in Treviso, a city that has the same winding streets and waterways that Venice does with a fraction of the tourists. From Treviso, you can day trip to Padua (Padova), Prosecco vineyards, Venice, Jesolo, or any number of other places via public transit for 2,80 – 10 euros roundtrip. Do not stay in Venice. It is an island of tourists, which makes it incredibly pricey and realistically less beautiful.

Vocabulary

Ciao – Hi/Bye

Mama Mia! – Oh my God!

Bongiorno – Hello

Buono Sera (or just Sera) – Good afternoon (really from about 6pm-8pm)

Cutest Kids

Ben: There was this incredibly cute little girl looking through the train door window on our way to Innsbruck, en route to Venice. However, the cutest kid was found in the Coop supermarket (pronounced Koh-Ohp, which I learned after asking the bus driver to stop at “Coop”, as in the chicken version, and it took him about 30 seconds to translate). He epitomized the Italian mindset: holding cheese, with olive oil nearby, and wearing some manpris + crocs.
Ben: There was this incredibly cute little girl looking through the train door window on our way to Innsbruck, en route to Venice. However, the cutest kid was found in the Coop supermarket (pronounced Koh-Ohp, which I learned after asking the bus driver to stop at “Coop”, as in the chicken version, and it took him about 30 seconds to translate). He epitomized the Italian mindset: holding cheese, with olive oil nearby, and wearing some manpris + crocs.
Kyra: This little boy came up to us on the beach. He was walking with his grandpa, who patiently helped the little boy count his shells.
Kyra: This little boy came up to us on the beach. He was walking with his grandpa, who patiently helped the little boy count his shells.

Highlights

Ben: Kyra and I tried to visit Treviso three times.  Try #1: Our ride cancels on us and we’re left to walk around Jesolo searching for free wifi.  Try #2: We purchased our bus tickets and realizing we had just missed the bus, walked around for awhile.  At 11:15, we returned, waiting for our 11:22 bus.  A bus shows up at 11:21, but it says San Dona (another town north of Jesolo), so we opt not to hop in.  Turns out that was our connection.  Finally, on Try #3 we make it to Treviso.  It’s a spectacular town bordered by a river and large stone walls.

Kyra: Treviso is a vibrant, town with a lot of color, water, and “rat infestation zones.” In windows all over the city we saw drawings that highlighted the city’s upcoming Comic Book Festival. The day before we arrived there was a city-wide yoga retreat.
Kyra: Treviso is a vibrant, town with a lot of color, water, and “rat infestation zones.” In windows all over the city we saw drawings that highlighted the city’s upcoming Comic Book Festival. The day before we arrived there was a city-wide yoga retreat.
Ben: Kyra and I strolled through the old streets, grabbing a kebab and burger for lunch while talking about our Italian experience thus far. We both enjoyed Treviso much more than Venice and agreed that it was like a smaller, quieter, more picturesque version of the famous canal town. On a nondescript bridge we ran into a small group of people who chatted with us for awhile and offered advice after we told them about our trip. One woman from the group was even from Thailand (a future destination) and was happy to send us a Facebook request and answer any questions we had. This goes back to my lesson learned that everyone is very willing to help.
Ben: Kyra and I strolled through the old streets, grabbing a kebab and burger for lunch while talking about our Italian experience thus far. We both enjoyed Treviso much more than Venice and agreed that it was like a smaller, quieter, more picturesque version of the famous canal town. On a nondescript bridge we ran into a small group of people who chatted with us for awhile and offered advice after we told them about our trip. One woman from the group was even from Thailand (a future destination) and was happy to send us a Facebook request and answer any questions we had. This goes back to my lesson learned that everyone is very willing to help.
Ben: Lido di Jesolo - the beach near where we stayed was a great respite from our time spent in planes, trains, and buses. I didn’t enjoy the route to get there (biking 2km, partially on a very tiny road), but it was worth it for the experience. Swimsuits on the beach varied in size, but even with my “Minnesota short shorts” I think I had the longest pair. And Italians (or tourists) don’t have any body image issues. Either that or they simply haven’t upgraded their swimwear since Highschool. In fact, some even opted out completely. Regardless, it was a great time relaxing in the sun, practicing yoga, reading, grabbing a fresh slice of pizza from the nearby stand, and dipping in the water every once in awhile.
Ben: Lido di Jesolo – the beach near where we stayed was a great respite from our time spent in planes, trains, and buses. I didn’t enjoy the route to get there (biking 2km, partially on a very tiny road), but it was worth it for the experience. Swimsuits on the beach varied in size, but even with my “Minnesota short shorts” I think I had the longest pair. And Italians (or tourists) don’t have any body image issues. Either that or they simply haven’t upgraded their swimwear since Highschool. In fact, some even opted out completely. Regardless, it was a great time relaxing in the sun, practicing yoga, reading, grabbing a fresh slice of pizza from the nearby stand, and dipping in the water every once in awhile.
Kyra: Venice is set up to be an intimate city, with a new landscape around each corner. In the fleeting moments we were allowed to take in the scenery solo, Venice is just as breathtaking as The Italian Job, promised me it would be.
Kyra: Venice is set up to be an intimate city, with a new landscape around each corner. In the fleeting moments we were allowed to take in the scenery solo, Venice is just as breathtaking as The Italian Job promised me it would be.
Kyra: The image of these three men made my heart so happy. They were bickering a bit and I could envision my dad, an avid sailor, in the future becoming them with his buddies.
Kyra: The image of these three men made my heart so happy. They were bickering a bit and I could envision a future version of my dad, an avid sailor, with his buddies.

Fetch

Kyra: Things Italians love: custom ringtones, Freitag bags, yelling unnecessarily, wearing heels, wearing heels while biking, and PDA (rivaled only by the PDA in France).
Kyra: Things Italians love: custom ringtones, Freitag bags, yelling unnecessarily, wearing heels, wearing heels while biking, and PDA (rivaled only by the PDA in France).
Ben: Pizza and Gelato - every other shop was a pizza place or gelateria
Ben: Pizza and Gelato – every other shop was a pizza place or gelateria
Kyra: This woman epitomizes Italian fashion for women in their 20s and 30s. Always a neutral color, silk or polyester top, baggy jeans or tight leather pants, and white shoes (preferably Converse high-tops). Their male cohorts would wear long, loose, cotton tops in pastels, manpris, with the option for a felt cowboy hat.
Kyra: This woman epitomizes Italian fashion for women in their 20s and 30s. Always a neutral color, silk or polyester top, baggy jeans or tight leather pants, and white shoes (preferably Converse high-tops). Their male cohorts would wear long, loose, cotton tops in pastels, manpris, with the option for a felt cowboy hat.
Ben: 24-hour tobacco vending machines
Ben: 24-hour tobacco vending machines

 

 

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